Anthology films seldom work. There is always one brilliant story in the series that overshadows all the other stories giving the overall viewing experience to be extremely uneven. But there are exceptions.
Ealing Studios, one of Britain’s premiere film studios in the 1940’s and ’50s, produced several classic films during their heyday. While the majority of them were comedies they did make this brilliant horror anthology.
The film starts with a man driving to a farm house. He’s Walter Craig (Mervyn Johns), an architect, who has been brought to the farm to help design the expansion of the estate. He’s introduced to several other people staying at the farm. Craig then realizes that he’s met all these people before in his dream. Well it’s more of a nightmare and he’s terrified of what’s to come. Everybody reassures him that there’s nothing to fear and then each starts to regale everyone with a tale of their own. The first story is about a racing car driving who crashed during a race and then has a premonition of a bus crash. There’s a tale of a ghost encounter at a children’s Christmas party, a haunted mirror, two golfers, one who ends up haunting the other and then the best of the bunch, a tale about a ventriloquist and his dummy. After the last story is told, the film still has one more surprise up its sleeve with a heck of a twist ending.
The film was directed by four directors, Alberto Cavalcanti who directed the segments Christmas Party and The Ventriloquist’s Dummy, Charles Crichton the segment Golfing Story, Basil Dearden directed the segments Hearse Driver and Linking Narrative and Robert Hamer directed the segment The Haunted Mirror and the shorts were based on stories by H.G. Wells, E.F. Benson, John Baines and Angus MacPhail.
The film is really creepy. It was the first horror film made in Britain after WWII (there was a moratorium on horror films during the war) and it influenced generations of horror movies.